Tequila is, nowadays, one of the most recognized and protected spirits drinks. This has been achieved thanks to the years of hard work by the organized Tequila agro-industry that gave life to the Regulatory Council (CRT). After 23 years, in 2019, Tequila was awarded the Geographical Indication (GI) by the European Union.
Why is this important? Europe is the second most important market for the tequila agro-industry, with 500 million consumers. Thus, this recognition assures the importation of an average of around 19 million Tequila liters per year.
In 2019, around 20 millions Tequila liters were exported to the EU, being Germany, Spain, and France the top three countries.
And what exactly is the GI?
The GI protects the name of a spirit drink or aromatised wine originating in a country, region or locality where the product’s particular quality, reputation or other characteristic is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.
Some of its benefits are:
- Right to exclusive use. No one can use the Geographical Indication TEQUILA (or a similar one that can confuse) without the CRT’s authorization.
Legal action. Being able to exercise a right to any legal action against anyone that is imitating or using Tequila (product or word) without the CRT’s authorization.
- Distinctiveness security. The European authority carried out an in-depth study in which the geographic indication TEQUILA was studied and resulted in it being sufficiently distinctive from others already registered.
- Security for the consumer. The consumers can count on precise and true information regarding the geographic origin of the product, and its qualities and characteristics from the specific origin.
- International level advantages. It is positioned on the market, differentiated from others, and maintaining its peculiarities while adding value to the liquid.
Tequila now is part of oriGIn, an NGO that campaigns for effective legal protection and the observance of the Geographical Indications (GI) at a national, regional, and international level. Also, it promotes the IGs as tools for the sustainable development of producers and communities.
Practical EXAMPLE - DESPERADOS CASE
The conflict involves the Heineken company and its “Desperados” beer. It indicates on its label to be “flavored with tequila” and to contain “aroma (75% Tequila)” within its ingredients, leading the consumer into an error regarding the nature and characteristics of Tequila, alluding to the DOT.
Heineken argues that it acquires Tequila certified by an Authorized Producer and refutes to comply with the Mexican and international regulations that regulate the DOT, because the CRT claimed the improper, unauthorized use of the word Tequila, considering that they lead to confusion to the consumer deceptively, since the veracity of the information is not met.
For 2017, the CRT sends a warning letter from its lawyers to Heineken, who respond arguing that the regulations NOM006 and NMX049 do not apply to them and they refuse to comply with them, so in that same year, the CRT files 2 lawsuits against Heineken, in the courts of the Netherlands and France, for the misuse of the word Tequila on the labeling of Desperados beer.
The French court rules in favor of the CRT and the Dutch court rules in favor of Heineken in 2019, so in the CRT he appears in the Dutch court to appeal and Heineken in the French court.
After having presented the case in France, the CRT detected in December 2019 that the Heineken subsidiary in France made a “tequila aroma” with packaged product of origin imported by an authorized producer, so in February 2020 it was informed the tequila-producing company that it was impossible to continue exporting only to the Heineken subsidiary.
These actions triggered Heineken, through the European Brewers Association, to file a complaint with the European Commission for obstacles to the importation of tequila into the European Union, who recognized the claim and it was published in the official gazette, as well as the Commencement of the investigation and examination procedure of the complaint, which will take between 5 and 7 months approximately and it is expected that they can be presented in court by 2021.
Tequila receives recognition as a Geographical Indication (GI) in the European Union, making it the first product in Mexico to access the maximum protection model in Europe.
The CRT detects that the Heineken subsidiary in France made a “tequila aroma” with packaged product of origin imported by an authorized producer.
Heineken files a complaint with the European Commission over obstacles to the importation of tequila into the European Union.